I always fancied customising a Raleigh 20. Sheldon Brown did it many times, so there is a good precedent? I was intending to fit alloy rims for a start, so that braking would be possible in the wet. The standard Raleigh long drop (65mm front) chrome steel calipers flex a lot in the dry & in the wet?? Forget it. really need updating IMHO: )

So I found this brown one on Ebay in quite nice condition. Pictured here it has had the tyres replaced with some NOS Pirellis. (Try finding them: ) And I like the Turbo saddles.

Next step was to find some suitable alloy rims. Sun CR 18 451 rims are £35 each on SJS Cycles. A bit too much for me, so I looked for alternatives… Plenty of 406mm, but they look silly to me in R20s. Viz the USA versions.

I came across some 456mm alloys, only 5mm bigger & they were cheap, cheap at £14 for a pair. Sounded good to me. £21 delivered! Amazing I thought.

Has to be a snag? The snag is limited tyre availability. But Holland Bike Shop had a selection of colours for 456 x 47 tyres happily. For £14 a pair in brown. With new tubes & shipping, a total of £31.

I think £52 for new rims, tyres & inner-tubes is very reasonable: ) Add £25 for the basic spokes, it adds up to £77 for a pair of complete new wheels? Sounds good to me.

Another slight snag is that the rims were anodised green. Wouldn’t look good on a brown R20? I don’t think so. But, the green rim colour was very similar to the traditional Raleigh green.

So, back to Ebay & straight away I found a lovely R20 Stowaway in green, with no wheels!!!

Serendipity at its best. It was just waiting for me I’m sure.

The brown one is destined for Ebay soon, if I can’t place it with family member, or a friend. Offers invited: )

(I swapped it for a pram. A vintage, coachbuilt Silver Cross that will be the base for

I think these rims go very well with the green of the frame. Brown tyres also. Camouflage colours?

I measured the inflated tyre on the rim diameter & it looked as if it would fit in the forks… Just. But I wouldn’t know for sure until the wheel was built.

So I bought a set of spokes for the front first. If it didn’t fit I’d be wasting my time on the rear also! The Spoke Calculator told me 202mm & when they arrived I soon realised they were way too long for a cross 3 pattern… Turned out I ordered 220mm!

Moral there somewhere! £20 down the drain & a good lesson for me.

Anyway I ordered some more spokes & got it right this time. Almost.

Lacing it up I soon realised they were slightly short this time for a cross 3, but OK for a cross 2. So that’s how it is now. A proper Comedy of Errors.

The rear was having a NOS Sturmey Archer X-RD3 that had been lying around for a couple of years. Spoke lengths were perfect this time with a cross 3. Hurray!

For me the rear drum brake is the ideal solution. I can forget the bendy Raleigh calipers, it’ll look cleaner & have an all weather rear brake at least.

For the front brake I found a NOS, in a Raleigh sealed pack, “Raleigh” alloy caliper. (Badged Alhonga in the listing photos) It just arrived & I realise now that it is a modern version of a Weinmann 730!

So, pictured right is the frame with its new wheelset in its current state. It has at least a 5mm clearance at the front;  ) Luckily. No space for guards, but I like the look of the fat 47 tyres & they should give a more comfortable ride at the recommended 50psi max.

Got all the cables & front brake today, so now I can get on with the project.  Decided to go with the Raleigh stem/bars for now, but I’m looking for a longer riser stem & use Allrounders.

The X-RD3 is a pain to fit in the R20 dropouts! Hub has OLN of 117mm & the frame 115mm. Needs clearance for the brake actuating arm & torsion bar & it is very, very close! It’ll go in though…

I’m trying a new Sturmey Archer Nimbus changer & it feels ‘plasticy’, cheap & nasty to me. It’ll have a ‘normal’ 3 speed trigger shortly. I’m trying it without the cable anchorage unit first, to see how it goes. (I didn’t have one: )

Overall I’m pleased with the way it’s turning out, & interested to see how it rides with the fat 47 tyres. It needs a pair of decent brake blocks for the front. The ones that came with the new Raleigh brake caliper are meant for steel rims. The whole idea of the alloy rims is to get good braking, rather than reduce weight. I’m sure it’s no lighter than the standard R20.

Especially with the X-RD hub. Wasn’t expecting lightweight, but the hub brake is a very sensible upgrade IMO.

The rear rack & stand also add some weight, but great to have on an Urban/Town bike. It can’t ever be a lightweight, but I’m OK with that because it’s arguably over-built. Heavy duty, sturdy, including the folding joint. They don’t make them like that any more.

Out for a first ride today, when the showers finally desisted. Very pleased with the way it rides, a comfortable riding position, & the 47 tyres soak up the bumps very nicely, better than I expected actually.

The brakes are very effective now, as they should be: ) They transform the bike. The front brakes will be even better when it gets some softer alloy specific pads.. It doesn’t feel like a Raleigh 20 any more!

I do like the look of the larger 456mm rims in the frame. So much better than the 406mm rims Raleigh used for the North American market, with the long, bendy calipers.

A longer, (400mm) alloy, micro adjust seat-post arrived this morning, happily just as I was about to go out for a test ride. Much better & suits my 6′ 1″ frame perfectly.

I’m still looking for a suitable, longer, riser stem…